Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3463–3483, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3463–3483, 2016

Research article 16 Mar 2016

Research article | 16 Mar 2016

A microphysics guide to cirrus clouds – Part 1: Cirrus types

Martina Krämer1, Christian Rolf1, Anna Luebke1,a, Armin Afchine1, Nicole Spelten1, Anja Costa1, Jessica Meyer1,b, Martin Zöger2, Jessica Smith3, Robert L. Herman4, Bernhard Buchholz5,c, Volker Ebert5, Darrel Baumgardner6, Stephan Borrmann7, Marcus Klingebiel7,d, and Linnea Avallone8,a Martina Krämer et al.
  • 1Research Center Jülich, Institute for Energy and Climate Research-7, Jülich, Germany
  • 2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Flugexperimente – Mess- und Sensortechnik, Wessling, Germany
  • 3Harvard University, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 4Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 5Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig, Germany
  • 6Droplet Measurement Technologies, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 7Johannes-Gutenberg University and Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
  • 8Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, USA
  • aformerly at: University of Colorado, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder, CO, USA
  • bnow at: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, Unit “Exposure Scenarios”, Dortmund, Germany
  • cnow at: Princeton University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, USA
  • dnow at: Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. The microphysical and radiative properties of cirrus clouds continue to be beyond understanding and thus still represent one of the largest uncertainties in the prediction of the Earth's climate (IPCC, 2013). Our study aims to provide a guide to cirrus microphysics, which is compiled from an extensive set of model simulations, covering the broad range of atmospheric conditions for cirrus formation and evolution. The model results are portrayed in the same parameter space as field measurements, i.e., in the Ice Water Content-Temperature (IWC-T) parameter space. We validate this cirrus analysis approach by evaluating cirrus data sets from 17 aircraft campaigns, conducted in the last 15 years, spending about 94 h in cirrus over Europe, Australia, Brazil as well as South and North America. Altogether, the approach of this study is to track cirrus IWC development with temperature by means of model simulations, compare with observations and then assign, to a certain degree, cirrus microphysics to the observations. Indeed, the field observations show characteristics expected from the simulated Cirrus Guide. For example, high (low) IWCs are found together with high (low) ice crystal concentrations Nice.

An important finding from our study is the classification of two types of cirrus with differing formation mechanisms and microphysical properties: the first cirrus type forms directly as ice (in situ origin cirrus) and splits in two subclasses, depending on the prevailing strength of the updraft: in slow updrafts these cirrus are rather thin with lower IWCs, while in fast updrafts thicker cirrus with higher IWCs can form. The second type consists predominantly of thick cirrus originating from mixed phase clouds (i.e., via freezing of liquid droplets – liquid origin cirrus), which are completely glaciated while lifting to the cirrus formation temperature region (< 235 K). In the European field campaigns, slow updraft in situ origin cirrus occur frequently in low- and high-pressure systems, while fast updraft in situ cirrus appear in conjunction with jet streams or gravity waves. Also, liquid origin cirrus mostly related to warm conveyor belts are found. In the US and tropical campaigns, thick liquid origin cirrus which are formed in large convective systems are detected more frequently.

Short summary
A guide to cirrus clouds is compiled from extensive model simulations and aircraft observations. Two types of cirrus are found: rather thin in situ cirrus that form directly as ice and thicker liquid origin cirrus consisting of uplifted frozen liquid drops. Over Europe, thinner in situ and liquid origin cirrus occur often together with frontal systems, while over the US and the Tropics, thick liquid origin cirrus formed in large convective systems are detected more frequently.
Final-revised paper